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Grounding Politics in Ethics part 2

b2ap3_thumbnail_porcupine.jpgIn thinking about how my religion informs my political choices, I realize that it only does so in the most general sense. Paganism values Nature not because there was a political movement called Environmentalism, but because our ancestors couldn’t get away from it, and because the poets and artists of the Romantic era placed Her in stark contrast to the burgeoning industrial complex.

As a movement, Environmentalism has some massive failings that I’ve written about here. Gus diZerega advocated voting Democratic in the last election, not because the Democrats were friends of the environment, but because they had a slightly better record. Hardly a ringing endorsement, and certainly not one that touches my religious sensibilities or values. And perhaps it shouldn’t. But I’ll get to that.

Second wave Feminism leaves me even more ambivalent. My daughter is completing her final year in a maritime college, and will earn a degree in Navel Architecture. Without second wave Feminism, she would likely not have had that opportunity. One the other hand, political correctness, combined with some really nasty attitudes about men, have alienated a substantial chunk of the population, while doing nothing to make women stronger.

Ethics, whether they are sourced from religion or not, are about seeking to be the very best person we can be. Good ethics mean we struggle with finding the most fair way to behave in any situation. In order to do that, we need to get as much information as possible, and consider the effects of our various options on the other beings involved. Politics is anything but.

At its best, politics is about compromise. Compromise is fine on a personal level. Negotiating a compromise with my neighbor at least gives me the control to decide how I want to respond if he digs his heels in over a certain point. If I can’t make peace with the outcome, I have options. But American politics is not personal, it is representational. I am not the one doing the compromising, yet I must live with the compromises that my representative makes. Plus, there is at least a 50-50 chance that I didn’t vote for him or her, and that my values run completely counter to thiers.

Before Reagan, the fundamentalist Christians stayed the heck out of politics. Thanks Mr. Reagan. Thanks a lot. Reagan’s acknowledgement of the Fundamentalists lead them to dive into politics with much of the same passion that I see in groups like Reclaiming today. The belief that “we can change the world” is empowering, but the good feelings do not take into account the cost. Pagans have been living with the cost of Fundamentalist politics. If a powerful political figure gave us the same acknowledgement that Regan gave the Fundamentalists, I’m confident we would be capable of the same mistake.

So my conclusion is that government should most certainly not touch on my religious sensibilities. The only thing I should advocate for is for government to stay out of the way as much as possible. It is the attempts of governments to manifest the vision of a perfect society that have caused the greatest number of deaths. Is my religious vision somehow exempt from this reality simply because it is mine?

No.

Our personal choices, that which we have direct control over, should certainly be laid out by our spiritual path. But my political choices effect the rights of people far beyond my Pagan spiritual community. The Pagan community is only one among many in the US, and they all have different values and priorities. I think the best use of my vote and political voice is not to support candidates the forward my own spiritual values, but those that honor the separation of religion and the government. I wish there were more of them.

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Selina Rifkin, L.M.T., M.S. is a graduate of Temple University and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. In 1998 she graduated from the Downeast School of Massage in Maine. She has published articles in Massage Therapy Journal, been a health columnist, and published The Referral Guide for Complementary Care, a book that describes 25 different healing modalities. In 2006 she completed her Masters program in Nutrition with a focus on traditional foods, and the work of Weston A. Price.
Currently she is the Executive Assistant to the Director of Cherry Hill Seminary, the first Pagan seminary to offer Master’s degrees.

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